This summer discover all four of the main Hawaiian Islands! Experience bustling and vibrant Oahu, enjoy meaningful service projects in beautiful Maui, relax and discover the dramatic landscape of lush Kauai, and explore active volcanoes and become a certified reef teacher on the Big Island!
Our time on the islands will involve plenty of exploration and adventure with a variety of service projects mixed in, including working with animals, children, and marine life.
Visit the Boys and Girls Club in Honolulu and run a program for the children involving sports, arts and crafts, or anything else we can dream up! This provides the opportunity to bond with the children and gain more insight into BGCH’s mission of inspiring local Hawaiian youth.
In Maui, help heal rescued animals who have found a new life in Hawaii on a beautiful farm sanctuary. You will also learn about Hawaii’s indigenous and endangered plants at the local botanical garden.
On the Big Island, experience hands-on learning while working closely with marine biologists on important projects all focused on the ocean. Snorkel, survey reefs, collect ocean data and become educated about reef ecology. After three days of our marine biology project, you’ll officially become a certified reef teacher!
Plenty of adventure will complement our service projects. Swim in secret waterfalls, sail alongside pods of dolphins, gaze at an active volcano glowing at night, snorkel with giant manta rays, take a surf lesson and much more on this incredible journey to discover the best of Hawaii!
During this program, you will…
- Earn up to 40 hours of community service
- Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and watch an active volcano glow in the evening
- Snorkel with manta rays at night
- Kayak and hike to a secret waterfall and reward yourself with a refreshing swim
- Enjoy a scenic ride as you cruise on a catamaran along the world-famous Napali Coast and watch hundreds of dolphins as they swim alongside you
- Learn about reef ecology and become a certified reef teacher
- Discover and explore Waimea Canyon, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific
- Snorkel with vibrant marine life at the biodiverse Molokini Crater
- Learn to surf on the famous shores of Waikiki Beach
- Try your hand at sea kayaking
- Learn to hula and enjoy a traditional Hawaiian feast at an authentic Hawaiian luau
- Take a step back in time and visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial
- Hike through lava tunnels to the top of Diamond Head Crater for stunning coastal views
- Spend time with playing with the local children of Oahu
- Zipline through lush jungle
DAY 1: DEPART FROM LOS ANGELES (LAX)
DAYS 2-5: HONOLULU > PEARL HARBOR > WAIKIKI
Oahu is the perfect island for a little bit of adventure! We will take a surf lesson on the famous shores of Waikiki with professional instructors who will have you riding waves in no time. Our hotel is just steps away from the beach, so we will have plenty of time to relax, swim, and enjoy some quality time in the summer sun! For a truly unique experience, we’ll hike through a lava tunnel to the top of Diamond Head Crater for breathtaking views of the island.
No visit to Oahu would be complete without a journey to the past in order to pay respects at the USS Arizona Memorial and Pearl Harbor Memorials. Accessible only by boat, this memorial is one of several sites in Hawaii commemorating the attack on Pearl Harbor and honoring those who lost their lives as well as the few remaining survivors.
Our time in Oahu will be made even more special with a visit to the Boys and Girls Club in Honolulu. While here, we will run a program for the children involving sports, arts and crafts, or anything else we can dream up! This provides the opportunity to bond with the children and gain more insight into BGCH’s mission of inspiring the local Hawaiian youth.
DAYS 6-12: MAUI
Maui is truly a Hawaiian paradise with pristine white sand beaches, colorful coral reefs, lush vegetation, and turquoise ocean. Our hotel is right across the street from some of the best beaches on the island! We can hop over any time we like for beach volleyball, relaxation, and a refreshing swim.
In Maui we will spend time at a farm sanctuary that is home to a variety of rescued animals, including giant tortoise, llamas, horses, and more! In addition to our work with these animals, we will partner with the local botanical garden to learn about the delicate flora on the islands. There are 1,000 species of flowering plants that are native to the Hawaiian islands and many of these endemic plants have been driven to extinction due to human influence. Working with the botanical garden allows us to do our part to reverse this and participate in the proliferation of endemic Hawaiian plants.
We will also address the global trash crisis that is polluting our oceans. Throughout our years of volunteering in Hawaii, TFT groups alone have cleared over 2000 pounds of garbage from Maui’s delicate shores!
Our service work will be complemented with plenty of fun activities, including snorkeling in the famous Molokini Crater, ziplining through the jungle, scuba diving (optional), and learning to hula from a professional hula dancer.
There will also be an optional excursion to catch the sunrise from the top of Haleakala Volcano and bike down through the clouds. For those who don’t feel comfortable biking, don’t worry, there is the option to ride down in a vehicle too.
DAYS 13-15: KAUAI
Kauai is often considered the most beautiful of the Hawaiian Islands. Known as the Garden Island for its lush vegetation, this island is home to thousands of waterfalls, pristine beaches, an abundance of marine life, and the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea Canyon. During our time here we will explore everything this island has to offer and discover why it is often compared to Jurassic Park!
We’ll enjoy sailing on a catamaran to swim and snorkel along the Napali Coast, one of the world’s most beautiful coastlines. The dramatic cliffs jutting out of the turquoise water, scattered with waterfalls and caves, is something you will never forget! Pods of dolphins are guaranteed to accompany you as you gaze across this stunning coast.
We will also take a trip through Waimea Canyon, where we will stop at the best lookout spots for photo opportunities and to admire the breathtaking views.
Kauai is a perfect island for adventures, so we will paddle kayaks down a peaceful river to enjoy the views before hiking through the jungle to a secret waterfall where we can enjoy a refreshing swim!
DAYS 16-21: KONA
Our last stop on our Hawaiian journey is the Big Island! This island has an abundance of healthy coral, exotic marine life, and plenty of sea turtles! We will participate in a hands-on service project working closely with marine biologists for two days and at the end of our project, we will be certified reef instructors! We’ll snorkel, collect ocean data, survey reefs, and educate others about Hawaii’s marine life.
We’ll have plenty of adventures on the Big Island! Take a day trip to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to wander through lava tubes, hike the rim of an active volcano, and watch lava glow as the sun sets! We’ll sail out to the Captain Cook Monument for some world-class snorkeling and even snorkel at night with giant manta rays. Learn more about Hawaiian history and spend a morning at the City of Refuge, which once served as a safe haven for those escaping a death sentence.
We will also have the option to take a journey to the top of 13,000-foot Mauna Kea for incredible stargazing through some of the world’s most powerful telescopes!
Our time in Hawaii will be topped off with an authentic Hawaiian luau, complete with amazing performances and delicious food! We’ll celebrate the past three weeks and reminisce about our incredible adventures under the Hawaiian sun.
DAYS 21-22: RETURN FLIGHT TO LOS ANGELES (LAX)
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of teen typically participates in this program? What are the requirements to join?
Teens from all over the world join this program! Typically, our participants are culturally curious individuals who are excited to make new friends, experience something unique, and interested in stepping out of their comfort zones and expanding their horizons.
This program is exclusively for students who are currently in grades 9th through 12th and approximately 14 to 18 years old. Students living outside of the USA are welcome to join!
Where do we stay?
Our hotels are chosen specifically in safe areas and are well suited to facilitating group supervision. We stay in centrally located accommodations, usually within walking distance of the main attractions. We do not use large, impersonal chain hotels on the outskirts of cities; we prefer to select smaller, family-run hotels where we establish personal relationships with the owners.
In Maui we stay at a comfortable condo right across from the beach in sunny Kihei. In Oahu we stay at a great hotel right in the center of vibrant Waikiki that is walking distance to all of the shops, restaurants, and best of all, just a few blocks from Waikiki Beach! In Kauai our hotel is in the charming local town Kapaa, right on the beach. There is a boardwalk we can bike along as well as plenty of boutique shops and restaurants to explore. On the Big Island we stay at a family owned hotel in Kona. The location is right next to a small bay, perfect for swimming and right in the heart of Kona’s many shops. There are swimming pools at all four of our hotels, perfect for cooling off after a fun day spent under the sun!
For safety reasons, we do not publish the names of the accommodations we use. We do not feel it is safe to publish the name of a hotel where a group of teenagers is staying abroad. After registering, participants and parents are given access to our secure parent website where you will be able to see the names of all of the accommodations for the program.
Do most travelers go on their own?
Yes! In fact, over 75% of students who travel with us choose to come independently. This encourages teens to step further outside their comfort zone and make new friends. We believe that one of the most rewarding and exciting elements of travel is the new friendships that form along the way. When we travel by ourselves, we are bound to make new friends from all over the country and even the world. The best part is, you can travel again with your new friends on another TFT program the next summer!
If you are thinking about joining a TFT program by yourself but you are feeling unsure, please let us know! We have plenty of references from solo travelers who had great experiences and would be happy to chat with you about it.
Can I bring a friend?
Absolutely! We ask that if you do come with a friend, you and your friend(s) maintain openness to meeting new people and sharing this special experience with the entire group.
What do students like most about this program?
Students love the insight they gain from experiencing the “real Hawaii” off the tourist track. Having the opportunity to learn more about the marine life and participate in a meaningful project to protect an endangered species, as well as spending time with the local children, are just some of the highlights of this program.
What is unique about this program?
Having a wide variety of service projects allows students to explore different types of service and gain a deeper connection with Hawaiian culture. Working with animals, children, marine life, and the gardens are the perfect way to students to discover the many ways they can give back to the beautiful state of Hawaii.
In addition to the service component, students love the exciting mix of activities that make each day a new adventure!
What is included?
Tuition cost includes ground transportation; accommodation; chaperones and guides; program-related activities and admissions; taxes and tips; all breakfasts and dinners.
Not included in cost (this is not intended to be an exhaustive list): airfare; lunches; visas and visa application fees; personal and medical expenses; activities and admissions that are not program-related or referenced in the itinerary; beverages other than filtered water at meals; participant expenses that are outside of the program description, such as excess baggage fees and damage to hotels; expenses related to unforeseen circumstances, such as transportation strikes and natural disasters.
How do the optional group flights work?
Upon registration, you will be contacted by our International Logistics Team to discuss the program’s flight details. There is no requirement to take the group flight, but there are several advantages to doing so. The group flight is usually chaperoned by a TFT staff member, and it also offers an opportunity for the students to get to know one another prior to the start of the program. Parents are responsible for coordinating transport to the departure airport – however, the logistics team will send out instructions detailing the exact meeting spot and airport point person. For additional information about flights, visit our dedicated flight page.
Who leads the program?
Our staff is a cut above the rest! We seek out two main characteristics in our counselors – extensive knowledge of and experience in our destinations, and a passion for working with teens. Our staff’s backgrounds include living abroad and working in summer camps or other educational settings. Team members are proven leaders and role models, who connect easily with others and form genuine friendships with each student – all while bringing each destination to life.
We celebrate diversity! Our staff represents 49 different nationalities, speak a combined total of 21 languages, and visited 142 countries. Additionally, 80% of our staff lived or worked abroad in their lives. With so many unique experiences to share, you are sure to gain a global perspective.
Our average minimum ratios are one staff member to every seven participants. Each program has one Trip Director with several support staff, depending on the group size. Directors must be at least 25 years old and have prior experience working with TFT.
What are the safety qualifications for our staff?
Our staff members undergo a rigorous hiring process. They receive the same background check as school educators, an extensive training process to go over all safety precautions and protocols, and are required to be certified in CPR and First Aid. We exclusively hire responsible, multi-talented individuals who are safety-minded and are as passionate about teen travel as we are.
What is the average group size?
We pride ourselves on small group sizes to create a more authentic and personalized experience. Our group sizes fall between 14 and 21 students – the perfect size to facilitate new friendships without feeling lost in a crowd! We believe smaller groups eliminate the likelihood of cliques, and allows for a well-rounded, healthy group dynamic.
How does this program connect to other programs?
Our program dates are designed specifically so that participants can opt to combine trips throughout the summer. When connecting to another program, your counselor will escort you to the airport on the last day of the program and assist you in meeting your next group at your new destination.
Families who sign up for more than one program will also receive a 15% discount on the lesser-priced program.
What is the food like on this program?
In a word – delicious! At TFT, we believe food should be an integral part of the travel experience and always make an effort to eat at authentic establishments when we can. What better way to immerse yourself in the culture of a place than by sampling the local delicacies, and we encourage students to do so whenever possible! Just as we stay away from Americanized hotel chains, we try to avoid restaurants with menus that cater only to tourists because every good traveler knows the best food is found wherever the locals are eating!
The food in Hawaii involves plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and of course, seafood! Some typical foods we will have the chance to try are poke bowls, acai bowls, poi, and breadfruit.
Of course, we are always willing and able to accommodate vegetarians, vegans, gluten allergies, and other dietary restrictions.
Do we ever get time to go off on our own?
Our staff and teens are nearly always together, but we do provide the opportunity to break up into smaller groups to allow for flexibility and customization within the itinerary.
We offer free time in defined safe areas – for example, shopping in a market or exploring a museum. During these times, students remain in groups of at least two and are given no more than an hour. Of course, the counselors remain nearby and available. Additionally, a lifeguard-certified counselor supervises the campers any time they are involved in water activities.
Do I need any vaccinations for this program?
We recommend checking with your family doctor regarding vaccinations and medical advice for the destination you are visiting. For more information, please check the World Health Organization’s website. Upon registration, we provide a list of recommended vaccinations that can be discussed further with your doctor.
What kind of visa do you need for this trip?
US citizens do not need passport or visa for this program, but a form of government-issued identification is needed for airport security.
When joining a TFT trip from outside of the US, please be sure to check your country’s specific visa requirements.